How Are You Seeking Jesus?
O Lord God, my dear heavenly Father, my soul is thirsty and needs Your refreshing love and mercy. As I come before You this day to confess my sins, please grant me Your forgiveness. As I come to sing my hymns of praise, please accept them as genuine expressions of my faith. As I come to hear Your Word, please instruct my heart with Your wisdom. As I come to You with my petitions, please hear them and respond as You see fit. When I finally leave Your house, please go with me so that I may fulfill my calling with confidence and joy. Amen.
The promise of the Savior, although entrusted to God's Old Testament people of Israel, was alwasy intended for all people to share and enjoy. Naaman, the commander of Syria's army during the days of Elisha, came seeking physical healing, but left having found true hope in the LORD God!
The apostle Paul addresses our relationships with each other, especially those relationships that prove to be difficult. He urges us to “live peaceably with all men,” to leave vengeance in the hands of the Lord, and to “overcome evil with good!”
Text: Matthew 8:5-13
Now when Jesus had entered Capernaum, a centurion came to Him, pleading with Him, saying, “Lord, my servant is lying at home paralyzed, dreadfully tormented.” And Jesus said to him, “I will come and heal him.” The centurion answered and said, “Lord, I am not worthy that You should come under my roof. But only speak a word, and my servant will be healed. For I also am a man under authority, having soldiers under me. And I say to this one, ‘Go,’ and he goes; and to another, ‘Come,’ and he comes; and to my servant, ‘Do this,’ and he does it.” When Jesus heard it, He marveled, and said to those who followed, “Assuredly, I say to you, I have not found such great faith, not even in Israel! And I say to you that many will come from east and west, and sit down with Abraham, Isaac, and Jacob in the kingdom of heaven. But the sons of the kingdom will be cast out into outer darkness. There will be weeping and gnashing of teeth.” Then Jesus said to the centurion, “Go your way; and as you have believed, so let it be done for you.” And his servant was healed that same hour.
In Christ Jesus, the Son of God and the One we aught seek, dear Fellow Redeemed:
We human beings are by nature “seekers.” Our God created us with our minds and bodies. We are curious and seek answers. We have physical needs and seek the fulfillment of those needs. We refer to people at times as “thrill-seekers.” Perhaps you read in the Mankato Free-Press on Friday that Europe has recently experienced “hurricane-force winds…killing 25 people and disrupting travel for tens of thousands” (January 19, 2007, A3). That same day I heard the story reported on the radio, but with this addition—hang-gliders in the northern Alps went out into those winds, despite government warnings, because they wanted to experience the thrill.
God has also created us with souls. In spite of the fact that sin by nature has separated our souls from God, there is within all human beings a natural knowledge of God, which motivates us to seek God. The apostle Paul addresses this with these words in his sermon on Mar’s Hill in Athens: “He (God) gives to all life, breath, and all things. And He has made from one blood every nation of men to dwell on all the face of the earth, and has determined their pre-appointed times and the boundaries of their dwellings, so that they should seek the Lord, in the hope that they might grope for Him and find Him” (Acts 17:25b-27a). My dear friends, you are here today as “seekers.” What are you seeking? Are you seeking the assurance of God’s love and forgiveness? Are you seeking instruction from God’s word? Are you seeking an answer to your prayers, or an opportunity to lay before God your petitions? Today I want to ask you the following question: HOW ARE YOU SEEKING JESUS? In order to help you grow closer to your Savior as you seek Him, I would encourage you to seek Him with humility in view of His authority and to seek Him with confidence in view of His compassion! I would also warn you—do not fail to seek Him in view of His authority and compassion!
Our text begins as Jesus is returning to Capernaum after preaching His “Sermon on the Mount.” We are told that “a centurion came to Him pleading with Him” on behalf of a sick servant. Note immediately that this man was a Roman rather than a Jew. The Romans were a proud people. They occupied Palestine as conquerors and, in general, felt themselves superior to the Jews. Usually they had nothing other than distain for the local population and had as little as possible to do with them, yet this man came to Jesus seeking His help. The parallel account of this event in Luke’s Gospel gives us a bit more information on this Roman centurion by way of explanation. Luke tells us that he had converted to the Jewish faith, worshiped the LORD as his God, and had financed the building of a local synagogue in Capernaum. The man’s faith and its resulting love accounts for the concern he had for a slave—a concern rarely shared by his fellow Romans of that day.
What is even more amazing, however, is that when Jesus agreed to come to the centurion’s home to heal his servant, the man told Jesus, “Lord, I am not worthy that You should come under my roof. But only speak a word, and my servant will be healed. For I also am a man under authority, having soldiers under me. And I say to this one, ‘Go,’ and he goes; and to another, ‘Come,’ and he comes; and to my servant, ‘Do this,’ and he does it.” What tremendous humility this Roman military officer revealed in Jesus’ presence! He not only recognized his dependence upon Jesus in this matter, but also understood that in view of his sins he did not deserve to host Jesus in his home. He recognized and addressed Jesus as his “Lord”—his superior. Why? Because he recognized that Jesus was not just another Jewish man, but rather God—possessing all authority and power! That is why in his own explanation to Jesus, he commented, “I also am a man under authority” but what he recognized was that Jesus’ authority was much greater than his own. He, as a man, could command the obedience of other men, while Jesus, as the Son of God, could command all things!
My dear friends, the history provided us in all four Gospels is intended, among other things, to lead us to view Jesus Christ just as this Roman centurion. We are to recognize Jesus as the Son of God. He possesses all authority in heaven and on earth. He is our “Lord” and, therefore, the Person to whom we are all responsible in every way. He knows our every thought; He hears our every word; He sees our every action! He sorrows over our every sin; He rejoices in our every success. We are dependent upon Him, and it is only proper that as we seek Him, we do so with humility, for we too are unworthy to stand in His presence or to receive His blessing. Yet, in view of His authority and in spite of our unworthiness, let us proceed with humility to seek Him! He, after all, He is the One who encourages us with these words: “Ask, and it will be given to you; seek, and you will find; knock, and it will be opened to you!” (Matthew 7:7) HOW ARE YOU SEEKING JESUS? Seek Him with humility in view of His authority!
Seek Him with confidence in view of His compassion! While we do not know the full extent of the centurion’s spiritual understanding, it is probable that he was aware of the prophecies of Isaiah concerning the Promised Messiah. He probably knew, rejoiced in, and applied to himself and to his servant Isaiah’s encouraging words: “Arise, shine; for your light has come! And the glory of the LORD is risen upon you…. Gentiles shall come to your light and kings to the brightness of your rising” (60:1,3). He no doubt sought Jesus trusting in Isaiah’s description of the Messiah: “Behold, your God will come…. Then the eyes of the blind shall be opened, and the ears of the deaf shall be unstopped. Then the lame shall leap like a deer, and the tongue of the dumb sing” (35:4b,5,6a); and “the Spirit of the Lord God is upon Me, because the LORD has appointed Me to preach good tidings to the poor; He has sent Me to heal the brokenhearted, to proclaim liberty to the captives and the opening of the prison to those who are bound” (61:1).
Yes, the centurion came with confidence, and he illustrated that confidence by suggesting to Jesus, “Only speak a word, and my servant will be healed.” The centurion knew from the Old Testament prophecies that the promised Christ would be a man of great compassion. He was aware that Jesus, whose home base during His earthly ministry was Capernaum, had performed many miracles of healing and always revealed compassion to those who came to Him—just as the prophecies indicated would be the case. He, therefore, came to Jesus not only with humility but with confidence, knowing that here was Someone who not only could but would help!
My dear friends, Jesus at this point could not help remarking to those present that He had never observed such great faith—even among His own people who had been given so many opportunities by God and received so many blessings from God. At that point Jesus simply instructed the man to go home—knowing that his plea had been heard and his prayer would be answered!
It is with such a confidence of faith—a confidence in the sure and boundless compassion of our Savior, that we are to seek out our Jesus in connection with those issues confronting our lives. No matter what it might be, Jesus, who compassionately has invited us to come and who has promised to hear, has the power to address it. The apostle Paul encourages us: “Be anxious for nothing, but in everything by prayer and supplication, with thanksgiving, let your requests be made known to God” (Philippians 4:6). Are you or someone you love faced with a physical trial? Take it to Jesus, knowing that His compassion extends to you and the person you love. Are you or someone you love facing a spiritual trouble—the seeming inability to overcome a specific weakness or sin? Seek your Savior, for He knows and understands the weight as well as the webs of sin. He can help you! Remember—Paul says bring “everything” in prayer, and having done so, Paul promises that “the peace of God, which surpasses all understanding, will guard your hearts and minds through Christ Jesus” (Philippians 4:7). HOW ARE YOU SEEKING JESUS? Seek Him with confidence in view of His compassion!
But permit me to warn you: do not fail to seek Him, likewise in view of His authority and compassion! Jesus, while remarking on the strong faith of the centurion, says: “I say to you that many will come from east and west, and sit down with Abraham, Isaac, and Jacob in the kingdom of heaven. But the sons of the kingdom will be cast out into outer darkness. There will be weeping and gnashing of teeth.” In sharp contrast to the Roman centurion, many of the Jews of Jesus’ day did not believe in Him, nor would they humble themselves before Him. Jesus commented that many Gentiles—people from all over the world just like that centurion would one day sit down in heaven with Abraham, Isaac, and Jacob, while at the same time many Jews—“the sons of the kingdom” would lose their souls. Jesus would later and repeatedly return to this sad fact, while warning His Jewish contemporaries not to reject His word and ministry.
How aught Jesus’ warning be applied today? It still applies to and serves as a warning for those Jewish people who reject Jesus even today, but its application certainly goes much further. It is a warning also to those of us who have been brought to faith, who are privileged to have grown up in families of faith, as members of this Christian congregation. Immanuel is celebrating its 140thAnniversary this year. That is almost six generations of gospel-preaching. As with the Jews who had such a strong heritage, but turned away from it…so we must be careful not to turn away. It is so very easy to be led astray by the world in which we live—to fail to see the need or even feel the need to seek out Jesus. We can become very content enjoying the pleasures of life. We can become very self-satisfied—thinking we have or can provide everything we really need. Yes, it is so very easy for us to drift away from Jesus and finally drift into the claws of Satan. Should that happen, let us recognize that we will stand before Jesus one day to answer for our actions—whether they flow from faith, as the centurion, or from unbelief, as Jesus’ contemporaries. He possesses all authority in heaven and on earth! (cf. Matthew 28:18) Let us be aware!
My dear friends—the voice of Jesus is calling to you with compassion! He says: “Come to Me, all you who labor and are heavy laden, and I will give you rest” (Matthew 11:28). Let us not turn away from a Savior beckoning to us—a Savior so desirous to fill our lives with blessing, to secure for us our salvation, to walk with us now so that we might walk with Him forever! HOW ARE YOU SEEKING JESUS? I pray that you do so both with humility and confidence in view of His authority and compassion! Amen.
—Pastor Paul D. Nolting